Finding Sreekala: Life After Retirement

Sreekala GR has let experiences make her richer in her post-retirement 

'You must ask her about her post-retirement life, says Trivandrum-based Sreekala GR's daughter Krishna Priya when I reach out to her after spotting a video on Instagram of her mother rocking a Nangyarkoothu performance on stage at 67. Nangyarkoothu is a traditional temple art form of Kerala, and Sreekala, as it turns out later, has steadily, with regular practice, honed her skill in it. 

Sreekala, a retired bank officer, worked at the State Bank of India for her whole career. She joined in the late 70s after graduating college and retired in 2016. "I gave it my all," she says, mentioning that she grew up with a sense of perfection given the atmosphere at home. "Even though I was giving my 100% at work, I realized it affected the time and attention I could give to my family." "She was a workaholic," her daughter Krishna Priya comments, but I don't think she was happy.

<b>Sreekala GR</b>
Sreekala GR

Being a busy working woman in the late 70s and early 80s with two children to raise wasn't a cakewalk, Sreekala remembers.

"When I was nine months pregnant with my daughter, I walked two kilometres every morning to catch the bus to the bank. In the evening, I often had to miss the bus on time because I had a client and couldn't leave at 5 pm. Somedays, I would reach home as late as 9.30 pm. I suffered a lot, managing both fronts – home and office."

Even in 2023, women still struggle to balance their home and work responsibilities. Most would say the same thing that Sreekala says, remembering her working life, (almost) echoing the title of British author Allison Pearson's famous book: I don't know how I did it!

What Sreekala really knows and has brilliantly chalked out is her life after retirement. Only difference? It isn't exactly what she had planned. "Actually, I was looking forward to retirement. I used to read a lot earlier, but once I became busy with the bank, I couldn't find time to read as much. So, after retirement, I just wanted to return to my reading habit. I planned to buy lots of books and spend my time reading."

But life had other plans. Sreekala's parents, TP Radhamani and P Gangadharan Nair were famous All India Radio artists in Kerala. They passed on a love for culture, and Sreekala inherited a passion for singing. She was soon convinced by friends to join music groups that held performances. "You have a beautiful voice. You should sing, they told me and were very encouraging. So now I am part of three music groups, always practising, performing and busy," she laughs.

Watch Sreekala's Nangyarkoothu performance here:

There isn't much time left to read with the myriad activities she is involved in, but Sreekala has found a solution of sorts, though one for the greater good.

She has read stories and novels for the visually impaired for the past seven years. She records them for half an hour daily and shares them through WhatsApp groups. "These are groups for visually impaired people from diverse backgrounds. I enjoy it. When they comment on my reading, my self-confidence really goes up."

In her retired years, the diversity of activities, from music to social work, has given her a new purpose. She may have lost her husband many years ago and is adjusting to a different routine after a workaholic life, but she never feels lonely or at a loss for things to do. "I feel that I'm even busier than I used to be when I was working. But this busy is a different kind of busy. We are not answerable to anybody. We can do whatever we like."

<b>Sreekala during a music performance</b>
Sreekala during a music performance

Sreekala's other love is the dance form Thiruvathira. A classical temple dance form from Kerala is also practised during Onam. She has been performing Thiruvathira since she was a child. After retiring, she began learning other dance forms as well. Her years have only added to Sreekala's enthusiasm. "Now I feel that I can take up anything. 

Where does the confidence to explore and learn come from? Sreekala says it comes from the people around her. "They motivate me to do more because they appreciate me so much, especially my daughter and son. So, when I receive appreciation, my self-confidence increases."

Krishna Priya, Sreekala's daughter, agrees. "Now that she is doing everything she wanted to do, I can see how happy she is! That makes me encourage her to do more!" Like many other active senior citizens, Sreekala too has faced her share of unconscious ageism, with "well-wishers" telling her not to take on too much because she will strain herself. 

"When I hear this, something inside me tells me you can do it. Even with those who encourage, the desire to do something has to be within you." 

She may not have seen her retirement years going beyond reading "lots of books", but Sreekala's constant search to keep herself motivated, engaged, and a forever learner is a book many of us could take a leaf out of. 

Do you know of a senior citizen constantly searching for new learning like Sreekala? Share their story with us.

All images courtesy: Sreekala GR & Krishna Priya 

About the author

Author image

Reshmi Chakraborty

Reshmi is the co-founder of Silver Talkies. She loves books, travel and photography.

Post a comment


user image


23 Dec, 2023

Yes. Sreekala, my friend is a versatile artist. Very calm , kind and friendly. I wish her all success in her second innings.

Insert title here

Contact Us